For millennials, it’s exciting to finally have a place to call home that isn’t owned by their parents or their university — to be called “tenant” and not someone kid or student. Sometimes, the excitement gets too much that they end up biting more than what they can chew. They pay too much for a place that’s crawling with pests or live in a neighborhood where they can get stabbed if they peek outside. And you have to believe it when people tell you that landlords will say anything you wanna hear just so you could sign the dotted line!
So, if you’re new in the rental game, here are 15 questions that you should ask your landlord before signing that lease.
Can you confirm the rent/deposits/utility costs?
- Sometimes, listings are outdated and can show a higher price. Asking the landlord to confirm the price can prevent you from overpaying.
- On the other hand, if the landlord states a higher price than what was advertised, tell them about it. You can usually get the lower price by doing so.
- Sure, the price of the rent is just right for your budget, but that doesn’t mean that you can actually afford it. Utility bills can affect the total cost of living in your chosen place. Ask early on about it or else you might realize that you can’t afford it until it’s too late.
Am I required to pay for any deposits or non-refundable fees? If so, what are they for?
- Contrary to what landlords might tell you, but some state laws actually prohibit the implementation of non-refundable fees. And yet some landlords still do it . . ..
- If they tell you that they do have non-refundable fees, go home and research your state laws. Check if the landlord is legally allowed to ask for non-refundable fees/deposits.
- Then again, if you really love the place, you already know what kind of money you have to prepare before you sign the lease.
Do you have a tenant application process and screening criteria?
- Do you really want to just wing it and pray hard that the landlord will accept your application? Go ahead and ask them to lay out the process of their application and screening. This sets your expectations if you really want to get the unit.
- Also, ask if they require any fees for the process.
- There’s also a good chance that a credit report might be required by the landlord.
By when do you want the unit to be occupied?
- This avoids headaches if asked during the start of your conversation with the landlord. There are some instances when a landlord wants the unit to be occupied asap but the prospective tenant won’t be able to move in until a later date.
- It’s a total waste of time and effort if you and the landlord can’t agree on the move-in date, so it’s better to figure things out earlier.
What payment methods do you prefer for the rent?
- Landlords have the freedom to designate which form of payments they want to accept, and usually, they have different methods to choose from.
- However, if your landlord only accepts cash, then be suspicious. Be very, very suspicious.
- Since it’s the modern age, always opt for online payments. It’s more secure, you can automate it, and it’s convenient for you and your landlord.
Do you have any policies on late fees?
- Late fees are allowed in almost every state, but there are limits. They should be fair. Your landlord is not allowed to overcharge you.
- Be wary of landlords who will let you pay whenever you can, because that means they’re dishonoring their own lease agreement.
Are early lease terminations allowed? What are the fees involved?
- There are times when you just have to break your lease. Life is unpredictable. If your landlord truly knows that he’s doing, then he should have an early termination clause included in the lease.
- There are instances when a landlord only requires a tenant to pay 2-3 months’ worth of rent, or if he’s a bit cruel, he might require payment until he can find a replacement tenant (which could take months!)
What is your ideal tenant?
- This is how you can determine if your landlord if discriminatory or not. They have the potential to be unfair if you hear them say anything too specific about this question.
- Alternatively, this is also one way to find out if you’re the right person to rent the place.
Do you have any policy regarding pets? Would I be required to pay a fee or a deposit?
- It’s easier to find a vacant property where no pets are allowed, but sometimes, landlords will let exceptions slide depending on your reason (usually, they allow service pets)
- If they do have a policy regarding pets, ask them if there are any prohibited breeds, fees/deposits, and other rules to follow.
Will I be able to renew the lease once it has ended?
- There are landlords who already know what they’re going to do to their property once your lease has ended. There are those who want to sell it, or have their own kids move in, or sometimes, they themselves would move in. Better to ask now than be forced to find a new place once your lease ends.
How is the parking in the area?
- For areas with high populations, they have various requirements for parking permits and licenses. Your landlord should be able to assist you with the things that you have to do. Alternatively, if you do end up signing the lease, a good landlord should include this information on your move-in packet (you’ll know they’re awesome if they do these things to welcome you)
- If you’re going to have roommates and you all have cars, make sure you have enough parking spaces reserved under your names.
- If the landlord informs you that the property doesn’t have any available parking, ask them about other options for transportation.
Are there any procedures for submitting a maintenance request? Who’s in charge of making repairs?
- If the landlord can’t answer this simple question, then there’s a good chance that they don’t really maintain their property properly and your requests might fall on deaf ears.
- The condition of the property in general should already give you an idea if the landlord properly maintains it.
- If you’re unlucky enough to find a landlord who sucks at maintenance, make sure you document the state of the property before your move-in and move-out day. Use a website like MoveIn.Space to save the photos and easily pull up the evidence so you can get your security deposit back.
Do you give any notices before you or a representative shows up at the unit?
- Most states require landlords to provide their tenants with a notice 24 hours before they plan on entering the premises.
- If the landlord doesn’t follow this rule, then you’re bound to have more issues in the long run.
What’s the crime situation in the neighborhood? Have you had any break-ins or thefts in this property?
- It’s quite difficult to determine if your landlord is telling the truth when you ask this question. However, sometimes, a quick walk through the neighborhood can give you an idea of what to expect regarding crime rates.
- Alternatively, you can always check public records at the nearest police station to confirm if the property is safe or not.
If you’re the tenant, would you want to live here?
- If the landlord doesn’t look like they’re excited to live in the property after you ask this question, then you’ve probably found your new place.
- However, if he seems like he doesn’t want to live there, then you know he’s hiding something. There are probably a lot of hidden issues with the unit, so do your best to coax the truth out of the landlord.
Do you have any other revealing questions that should be asked to a landlord before signing a lease? Tell us in the comments!